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Name: Holly Manley

University: Aston University – Biomedical Engineering

Role: Cloud Solution Architect Intern

Description of Role:

I sit within the Customer Success Unit which is part of post-sales. We get involved with customers after they have been sold a product. We only deal with a hand-picked group of high potential customers who will benefit from the extra help provided by our department. Some of these are household names, others are cloud-born businesses with massive potential to grow. The role of the Customer Success Unit is to help customers use the products they have already committed to, so they can make their businesses more efficient through the use of Microsoft’s technology. As a Cloud Solution Architect I work with our Azure customers, but I also assist the department’s leadership team and use software to keep track of what is happening in different customer projects.

What does an average week look like?

Every week is different. Most of my team work from home so I am free to work from our offices in Reading, London or at home. I usually work from our Reading office and visit London once or twice a week for events such as hackathons, ‘unconferences’ and customer meetings.

I have a one-to-one with my manager every week to discuss my current projects and what I need to focus on. It helps to keep me on track and think about what is most valuable to spend my time on. I’m encouraged to have an impact on customers during my internship, so I spend a day a week working on customer shadowing projects. This could include building a bot, creating a PowerBI dashboard, or attending technical workshops.

Throughout my internship I have completed a series of exams including Azure Fundamentals, introduction to Python and Microsoft Office. Although I had a little programming experience from my degree, it’s not essential to have. Training is on-going and I’m always encouraged to learn more about any areas I’m interested in. For example, I usually attend a meetup event at least twice a month – these are community events anyone can come to. Each event has a theme and it’s a great place to network and meet people outside or inside the company with similar interests to you. I recently presented at a Tech Women London meetup on the topic of GenZ in AI. It was great opportunity to improve my public speaking, as well as sharing my unique insight into a subject so relevant to me.

Holly Manley co-presenting at a GenZ in Data and AI event

Could you tell us about one of your highlights of the role?

Photo of Holly and a group of three other young women at Microsofts DigiGirlz eventThe highlight of my role would be the freedom I’m given to pursue what I’m interested in. I’ve found that I am more passionate about the Data & AI space so I am shadowing the Finance team to gain more exposure, which my manager has been very supportive of. In addition to this, I’ve had so many opportunities to get involved in the women in tech community, which is a topic I feel very strongly about. I’ve volunteered at hackathons for teenagers, events for secondary school girls, and met inspiring women. I love that this can be part of my job role and is seen as a valuable contribution to the department, as opposed to being something I have to fit around my other responsibilities.

What has surprised you the most working at Microsoft?

Microsoft really values their early in career community and we are given a lot of responsibility. They really care about our ideas and feedback because we have an alternative perspective and see things differently. There is a lot of investment into the interns and we’re really encouraged to embrace the Microsoft culture, as any other full time-employee would. Above all, the value Microsoft devotes into the early in career community is matched by the importance Microsoft places on it’s culture.

Culture has been so much more important in my internship than I ever thought it would be. It affects everything – the way you work, the way you interact with people, your mindset. We’re encouraged to learn and think creatively. We’ve been taught to recognise our strengths and build on them, and learnt how this can translate into our work. I’ve developed important skills like time management, public speaking and networking, which I think have really prepared me for my final year of university.

What has the transition from University to Microsoft been like?

Some aspects of the internship are similar to university, in that you manage your time yourself. We have flexible schedules so it doesn’t matter when you do the work as long as it gets done. I find that I have a stronger support system here than is provided at university. I know who to reach out to for different things and who can help when, however this can be very difficult when you first start your internship. You have to be very self-motivated, more so than during your degree. You aren’t finishing that project because you’ve been given a deadline and need the grade, you finish it because it will lead to your next opportunity and open new doors for you.

What has been your personal highlight of the year?

I think the highlight of my year has been the intern and early in career community. I’ve made really great friends and learnt a lot about myself; what I’m good at and what I could work on. The project I’m most proud of is the ‘Women in Tech’ day I co-organised, where we invited 30 undergraduates to learn more about Microsoft. We received some really great feedback and inspired people to apply for the internship!

Photo of a group of young women at the Women in Tech Day

About the author

Headshot of Holly Manley. Young girl with blonde hair, smiling at the camera.

Holly Manley is a Cloud Solution Architect Intern in the Customer Success Unit. She is currently undertaking a placement year as she’s midway through her Biomedical Engineering degree at Aston University. Holly is most interested in AI, anything related to women in tech, and loves attending meetups.